It is time to end the presidential system
I have watched the U.S. government fail to successfully handle challenges from the start of my political consciousness. I am not alone in this opinion; the United States Congress’ approval rating has not reached above 50% since 2003. In a democracy, if an institution sustains a low approval rating over a long period of time, it is a failure and the citizenry no longer approves of it. Beyond Congress, the Presidency has succumbed to party differences resulting in the increase of executive orders and the simultaneous weakening of our democratic system. Congress and its relationship to the executive branch must be rectified; however, before this process can begin, Congress and the federal government must become functional.
The Founding Fathers designed the U.S. Constitution with one goal in mind: to create a republic that would not descend into tyranny either by one branch or one faction becoming too powerful. With this in mind, the founders designed the government to have strong checks and balances and limited ability, while remaining effective enough to prevent the United States from descending into anarchy. All these have held true; however, the founders had a drastically different conception of how the government should work. They envisioned a slow-to-act government that would be more likely to maintain the status quo outside of wartime emergencies. With that idea in mind, the founders created the Constitution and government that we see today — a purposefully ineffective and slow-to-react government. This is evident in how the government passes a bill. In order for a bill to pass, it must go through the House of Representatives and the Senate, each representing varied interests: the House of Representatives represents district issues while the Senate concerns themselves with state issues. However, in truth, the Senate has an ulterior purpose in attempting to stop the more reactive House of Representatives from passing major laws. By design, the Senate was created as an aristocratic organization that would ensure representatives from the House of Representatives would not bring forth too much change. This idea was even acknowledged by George Washington when he said the Senate was created to “cool” or even prevent particular House legislation.
The obvious solution to the present issue seems to be to either reform or abolish the Senate; however, there is another issue with the current political system. The Constitution was written before political powers became a staple of U.S politics. Today, parties have infiltrated all branches of government and have divided and obstructed the democratic processes past even what the founders intended. The presidential system invites party obstruction because of the strong checks branches have on each other. What was intended to stop tyranny has created a tyranny of its own, with a major party able to gain ownership of one branch or house and completely stop the function of government.
It has become clear that not only Congress but the whole government must be changed. The best course of action to create a reactive democracy that works well with political parties is adopting a parliamentary democracy. A parliament is more effective for the simple fact that in order to form a government there must be either one party that wins a majority or like-minded parties forming a majority coalition. Therefore, it creates a legislative branch that is able to agree on actual policy and effectively pass legislation that meets the needs of its citizenry. When a parliament has a majority party or a majority coalition, they elect a prime minister from the majority party or coalition parliament who acts as the executive of laws, leads cabinet positions and heads the legislative branch. This creates like-minded legislative and executive branches, which solves the issue of partisan and branch posturing that stops progress, as is often seen in the presidential system. This idea of cohesion in a parliamentary system is confirmed by a study conducted by Boston University, which found that a parliamentary democracy was superb or equal to a presidential democracy in political, human and economic development. It attributes the positives of a parliamentary system to the fact that parliaments promote collaboration between the legislative and executive branch, while the presidential system discourages it.
One major drawback of the parliamentary system is the lack of checks and balances in comparison to the U.S. presidential system. However, that does not mean checks and balances are nonexistent: the parliament has the power to remove the prime minister and there are still constraints imposed on the legislative and executive branches by the judicial branch. Also, the federal government would still be checked by state governments that have a number of powers that the government does not. I am also in no way advocating that the United States remove any of its bills that protect rights such as those in the Bill of Rights and the 13th and 14th Amendments, which ensure the government does not abuse the rights of the people.
U.S. democracy was referred to as the “great experiment.” The experiment has been conducted for over 200 years, and the results are in. The U.S. government is slow and resistant to change. It is time to change our system of governance and switch from the purposefully ineffective presidential system to a parliamentary one. The United States can no longer be nonreactive to crises because the consequence is 500,000 people dead and counting.